Iraqi forces free new neighborhood from IS militants in western Mosul
MOSUL, Iraq, April 20 (Xinhua) -- Iraqi security forces on Thursday retook control of a new neighborhood in the western side of Mosul after heavy clashes against the Islamic State (IS) militants, the Iraqi military said.
The elite forces, known as Counter Terrorism Service (CTS), liberated the neighborhood of al-Thawra in northwest of Mosul's old city center and raised the Iraqi flags on some of its buildings after days of fierce clashes with the extremist IS militants, Lt. Gen. Abdul-Amir Yarallah, from the Joint Operations Command (JOC), said in a statement.
The recapture of al-Thawra neighborhood is part of slow push toward the western edge of Mosul's densely populated old city center, where roughly 400,000 residents are believed to still be trapped under IS rule.
Meanwhile, the federal police and interior ministry special forces, known as Rapid Response, continued their battles on the southern and western front lines at the edge of the old city center.
The troops are trying to advance through the narrow streets in the old neighborhoods around the historical al-Nuri Mosque in the middle of Mosul's old city center, the source said.
The progress in the old city center is much slower than the early phases of the offensive after the troops restricted the use of bombs and increased sniper fire against terrorist militants holed up in densely populated old city center.
The liberation of al-Thawra neighborhood came hours after the Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi paid a visit to the western side of Mosul and met with Iraqi military commanders and civilians at the freed neighborhoods of the city.
Abadi, who is also the commander-in-chief of the armed forces, announced the start of an offensive on February 19 to drive extremist militants out of the western side of Mosul, locally known as the right bank of the Tigris River which bisects the city.
Late in January, Abadi declared the liberation of Mosul's eastern side, or the left bank of Tigris, after over 100 days of fighting IS militants.
However, the western part of Mosul, with its narrow streets and heavily populated neighborhoods, appears to be a bigger challenge to the Iraqi forces.
Mosul, 400 km north of Iraqi capital Baghdad, has been under IS control since June 2014, when government forces abandoned their posts and fled, enabling IS militants to take control of parts of Iraq's northern and western regions.[ Editor: Xueying ]